Some Library Databases Cut in Wake of Deficit

El Vaquero Staff Writer

The Glendale Community College Library will again experience another consequence of the recent budget cuts that have impacted the state’s community colleges. A portion of the library’s online resources will be eliminated to balance the pocketbook of a department that has already lost roughly one-third of its funding this year, which will not only affect students, but courses that utilize the databases.

According to Dean of Library and Learning Resources Ruth McKernan, the monetary outlook for the next year looks grim. The loss of some online resources comes on the heels of other programs that will have to be reduced to accommodate the loss in funding, such as Library workshops.

According to acting Reference and Electronic Sources Coordinator Cathy Brown, the GCC Library has roughly $32,338 less in its budget for this fiscal year. This is down from approximately $60,000 the Library had in its last year.

At least $25,210 has been cut from the Library’s Instructional Equipment and Library materials fund, a state grant that represents one-third of its funds to support the online resource collection and other materials.
Another one-third comes from funds provided by the Technology and Telecommunications Infrastructure Program. This state money will support the Library’s online resources for another year.
The last third of funds comes from the college itself.

“That money is safe,” said McKernan. “No one here wants to take it away.”

The Library’s online resources work on a subscription basis with renewals each year. So far, at least three databases will not have their subscriptions renewed. These include Project MUSE (2003 subscription cost is $4,548), Scribner’s Writers Series (a part of GALENET Literature Resource Center, $285), and Twayne’s Author Series (a part of GALENET Literature Resource Center, $865) – these resources will be canceled after Dec. 31.

Databases that will have their subscriptions renewed for 2003 include Books in Print (2003 subscription; cost $1,429), ($3,310), Access U.N. via NewsBank ($599), CQ Press Electronic Encyclopedia of American Government ($550), Biography Resource Center ($6,720), Literature Resource Center ($7,607), GROVE Dictionary of Art ($1,017), Ethnic Newswatch ($2,906), A Matter of Fact ($830), GROVE Dictionary of Music ($1,471) and Encyclopedia Britannica.

Collection Development and Web Librarian Shelley Aronoff said cutting other databases could also result in the loss of important resources for other courses on campus in the future.

The GROVE Music resource had been slated to be cut; however, the decision to forgo the deletion of this database was made after an effort from the GCC music department to save it.

“Grove Dictionary is the standard reference in the field, and losing it would be losing the most important resource we have,” said Beth Phluger, music department chair. “It is used by both students and faculty on a regular basis.”

“As GCC has moved into the world of online teaching, and as our students learn to do online research, it makes perfect sense to provide them with access to the high-powered GROVE online,” said music professor Ted Stern. “To suddenly discontinue this subscription is to move backward, academically speaking.”

According to McKernan, an effort will be made so that the databases that are used as part of a class will not be discontinued from the online resources.

However, the Library has to compare what is being used most – statistically – over what is not, said Aronoff.
The decision to cut a database is being based on a rank each resource is given, taking into consideration factors such as reference statistics and reference librarians’ own experience at the reference desk with how much the databases are used.

Additionally, duplicate databases – two or more databases covering the same discipline – will be deleted for the one database that broadly covers that discipline, said McKernan.

Aronoff feels that the monetary pinch the Library is facing is a sort of straight jacket for the Library in that the department does not have the headroom to move around and adjust its monetary priorities.

“If our budget were to remain the same, I would say, let’s put this money into something else. I’m talking about shuffling our priorities so that everything we have is really being used. We can’t even do that.”
However, Aronoff does not see the cuts of some of the Library’s online resources so much as a loss but as something that is preventing the library from growing. The cutbacks provide a roadblock for potential databases that would otherwise be considered for inclusion in the Library’s online resources.

Library databases such as “Opposing Viewpoints,” which lists the pros and cons of a subject, and a poetry database that allows students to look up indexes and anthologies on poetry are some of the databases that Aronoff would like to see included.

“We know the database is out there, we just can’t get it,” said Aronoff. “It would be wonderful to have both the databases and the print sources. There isn’t always a crossover. Sometimes you’ll have something in print that doesn’t exist in a database and vice versa.”

In combating the elimination of its online resources, the Library, which serves the interests of roughly 4,000 to 6,000 people a day, is considering cataloging Web sites much in the same way it catalogs its books. The difference exists in that these are resources from the Internet as opposed to resources that the Library subscribes to.

“If we’re using Voyager [the Library’s online card catalog] to look up something in astronomy, we may not pull up this database because it won’t longer be available but there might be some really good Web sites,” said Aronoff.

These resources would be evaluated and recommended Web sites, added Aronoff. However, undertaking such a project would require a lot of time and effort on the part of the Library staff, given the array of resources available on the Internet. Each Web site would have to be filtered so as to assure the accuracy of the information.

According to Brown, another round of cuts is slated for April 2003.

“I think that part of it depends on whether we get outside help,” said Brown about next year’s cuts. “If we get outside help then we won’t have to cut as much. If we don’t get any outside help we’re going to be in a real bind.”